The San Francisco 49ers today announced that they have re-signed safety Jimmie Ward.
Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported that Ward, who signed a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, has $3 million guaranteed, a $1 million signing bonus and $2 million of salary guaranteed. He gets a $93,750-per game roster bonus (if he’s on the 46-man dress list), and up to $500,000 in play time incentives.
Given San Francisco’s raft of secondary injuries last season, bringing back Ward — who is familiar with the San Francisco defense, and a mainstay in the 49ers’ defensive backfield since he was drafted in the first round in 2014 — helps bolster the free safety position until reinforcements can be added through the draft.
With Ward on a one-year deal and Adrian Colbert still a question mark, San Francisco could go after the likes of Virginia safety Juan Thornhill (who is super active with range down field, but has some tackling issues) or Washington safety Taylor Rapp, who’s a heady defender, if a bit undersized.
“Jimmie Ward has played at an extremely high level throughout his career when he’s been healthy,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Thursday, before the signing was officially announced.y
Health has been an issue for Ward. Since 2014, he’s played in 51 games over five seasons, with 31 starts. Four times in the last five years, Ward has been placed on injured reserve. Last season, it was due to a broken arm suffered during the Niners’ 27-9 Week 12 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ward also dealt with a minor quad injury that didn’t cost him games and a hamstring injury that cost him three games in the middle of the season.
“We all know he’s struggled to stay healthy, which has been unfortunate for him,” Shanahan said. “He played very hard. He’s very talented. And that’s why it’s been very hard for him to go out there and get really what he deserves as a player. But, to have Jimmie back here with the talent he has and if he can stay healthy, and we’re going to give him every chance to, we know we’ve got as good of a safety as we can get.”
The 49ers originally selected the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Ward 30th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. Over five years with the 49ers, he’s tallied 207 tackles, 20 passes defensed, 2.0 sacks and two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). In 2018, he appeared in nine games (seven starts) before going down for good, and registered 23 tackles on defense while adding one tackle and one forced fumble on special teams.
At the end of the season, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh raved about Ward’s versatility, after he moved from corner to safety during the season. Saleh, Shanahan and John Lynch have repeatedly sung his praises.
“Honestly, with Jimmie, I see him as a free, as a corner,” Saleh said. “Ideally, it’s one position and let him roll. He was playing really well at free safety. Again, it goes back to the end of the year, going through and evaluating and just to make sure that we pinpoint exactly what he was truly excelling at and exactly what the defense was really excelling at. He was. He was doing a really, really nice job back there at free safety.”